Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"Great Times," Chapter 11

Copyright 2006, Terry F. Phillips Sr.

All rights reserved.

Chapter 11

“You have a great radio station, Mr. Howard,” Ted said, bridling his enthusiasm as much as possible. It was a few hours after his encounter with Connie Collins and he was standing in Howard’s large office. Fortunately, he felt less nervous in the boss’ presence than he felt with Connie.

The office featured a large plate glass window that overlooked Lake Michigan.

Howard sat behind a large mahogany desk in an overstuffed brown leather office chair. The desktop was fairly barren, adorned with only a tobacco humidor and large cigar lighter.

“I’m probably gushing, but this place is amazing,” Ted said.

“How much did you look around, Lane?” Howard asked, taking a cigar from the humidor lighting it with the silver lighter.

Howard grinned from behind the cigar and then blew out a long stream of blue smoke.

“Have one?” he asked, extending the humidor to Lane.

Lane declined and waited for Howard’s next words.

“Lane, with the war over - have a seat, boy,” Howard continued. “With the war over, this country is headed for new times. Prosperity such as we never dreamed. Hell, we might even take the whole goddamn world with us on the ride!

“I hired you because you’re young. You’re ready for a wild ride.

“I believe this world will change in the next 10, 20, 40 years in ways most people cannot imagine.”

Howard continued painting his dream for Chicago and the world over the next several minutes. He told Lane that he anticipated television would change entertainment, just as radio had changed entertainment when he was a lad growing up in downstate Illinois.

“I’ve heard about experiments in New York,” Ted said. “There is even talk that WSBT --the station where I worked in South Bend - is planning to build a TV station. I--”

“Hell, they’re experimenting with it right here in Chicago!” Howard said, interrupting Ted and waving his arm toward the skyline that was visible outside his window. “Sending moving pictures through the air.

“You like baseball, Lane? Imagine people being able to watch the Cubs and the Sox right in their living rooms - or offices, for that matter!”

Lane suppressed a grin as he thought about the absurdity of an office with a television set. Where would they run the wires for the aerial? Lane chalked it up to the older man’s reckless enthusiasm.

“I’m going to let you in on something, boy,” Howard said, inching closer to the chair where Lane sat. “Radio is going to change. And we’re changing with it! I’m not going to let those people over at WGN or NBC or even CBS beat us on this one.

“We have fought our way up as Chicago’s leading independent station and we’re going to continue on the way up!

“Bing Crosby just signed a new contract in Hollywood, did you know that? Well, he did. He left Kraft and signed with Philco and do you know why?”

Lane shook his head, partly in amazement as Howard became more expansive as he talked.

“He signed because Kraft insisted he do his show live and Philco is letting him pre-record his show, as long as the ratings don’t slip too badly. Now, do you know what that means?”

Ted stiffened his neck and kept his eyes riveted on Howard. He didn’t know what the man was getting at, but he didn’t want to appear stupid, either.

“It means that before long stations will be playing pre-recorded shows and music all day long. Hell, they may even play records and quit playing shows all together.

“That’s the direction we’re going!” Howard continued. “I am having Studio C divided up into four smaller studios. There, we will experiment with recorded music!”

Ted wanted to show his boss he could get on board.

“They may even take listener’s telephone calls all day long!” Ted said.

“Hmm, could be,” Howard stroked his chin. “Why not? I like you, kid, you’re all right!”